Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

February 21, 2011

The Series That Made Me Realize Alt-Comic Books Were Dead

imageI was talking to some friends over the weekend about the death of the alt-comic book. Granted, one can make a very good argument that they haven't died yet, and an even better one that they could make a comeback if someone were willing to get in there and do a great deal of dirty work over a period of time. But for the capital-light second generation alt-comics publishers and the first generation publishers that inspired them, the shape of what comes to mind when you think of what they publish has changed forever into something with a spine.

The idea that the format was on its way out has been around for a dozen years at least, and may have been around in some form or another for a few years before that. The reason I know this is an idea that's been bandied about for a while is that the comic book series that first made me think that the format just might be on the way out stopped publishing some eight years ago.

Lewis Trondheim's The Nimrod was a fine, fun comic book series. If one could put aside the automatic reaction that every comic not featuring Batman or Wolverine was doomed, you could convince yourself that within its world The Nimrod looked like a winner. It featured comics from a world-class talent (Lewis Trondheim), it was from the publisher of such legitimately successful alt-comics series as Eightball and Hate (Fantagraphics); it was a dense, satisfying read for the money it asked (I not only took longer reading individual issues than with any other comic I purchased, I re-read them for a couple of weeks afterward), and there was really nothing between its covers that would make one think that waiting for the trade might seem a good idea. There was a serious buzz to my day every time I knew a new issue had arrived. Mostly, though, The Nimrod being as good it was said something to me when it first didn't catch on and later went away: that it really wasn't about there being a lucky generation of creators with all the talent. The actual format might be an issue. This accessible, clever and deeply funny work wasn't making the connection it should in part because the people who would love it weren't going to see it or buy it as a comic book.

I have no idea why I'm bringing it up today except to suggest like many of the great comics series, this one is worthy of your attention and seeking out, particularly if you've come to enjoy Trondheim's work as published through NBM. Even the high-end on-line retailers have issues of this book available for less than cover price or a nickel over that amount. Fantagraphics has one issue on sale for 99 cents. Comics' loss can be your gain.
posted 10:00 am PST | Permalink

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